More delay in Colombian hostage release


Caracas : The much-awaited handover of three high-profile hostages by Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels may take a few more days, officials have said.

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Officials engaged in the hostage release mission said the left-wing rebels have so far failed to finalise the forest location where the release was to take place, Spain’s EFE news agency reported Monday.

FARC said last week it would release three hostages – Clara Rojas, the campaign manager of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who is also being held hostage, Rojas’ three-year-old son Emmanuel and former lawmaker Consuelo Gonzales, held since 2001.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, coordinator of “Operation Emmanuel”, as dubbed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Sunday met the relatives of the hostages, who are staying at a hotel here with Venezuelan National Assembly speaker Cilia Flores.

Maduro said the hostages’ release “could take a few more days”, and called on the relatives to be more patient.

“Things are moving along, we have no doubt that with faith, confidence, strength, calm, understanding and nerves of steel, at this time, and in coming days, we are going to achieve this liberation,” the foreign minister said.

Chacin said he was “waiting for a location to be finalised”, and added that he was expecting the mission to end successfully in the next few days.

In a communiqué FARC said Dec 18 that the three hostages would be handed over to Venezuelan president or someone appointed by him.

The FARC said the decision to free the trio was a gesture to their families and to Chavez and Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba. Their efforts to broker a prisoner exchange were abruptly ended last month by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who said Chavez had violated the terms of mediation by speaking directly to the Colombian Army.

The FARC, which has fought a decades-old struggle against a succession of Colombian administrations and mainly finances its operations through drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping-for-ransom, also holds hundreds of other captives in hopes their relatives will pay for their release.